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How Mira of Mira Mira Went From Engineer to Shop Owner

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Mira Pickett fulfilled her lifelong dream of owning a store in April 2011 when she opened Mira Mira on 22nd Street near Valencia in April 2011. It's one of the hippest little strips in the city, with Pretty Pretty Collective as a next door neighbor, Revolution Cafe just up the block and Garcon! across the street. Mira's mix of cool-girl party frocks, relaxed-chic maxi dresses and cozy but always fashion-forward sweaters has the stylish set flocking. And folks far beyond the Bay Area are taking notice: Andrea Linett recently chose Mira Mira as the location for her "I Want to Be Her" book-signing party.

Besides having an amazing eye, Mira has a gift for bringing folks together. Her "ladies night" parties are legendary, and she's on a first-name basis with pretty much every fashion blogger in the city. Below she talks about how she transitioned from a life as a software engineer to one of the most-loved store-owners in San Francisco.

You came from a completely different world before you opened up Mira Mira. Can you describe your journey to becoming a shop-owner? Did you always want to open up a store?

Mira: It's always been a dream of mine to have my own shop but since I had no experience in the fashion industry, it seemed like something I could never do. I started out as a software engineer pretty much straight out of college and then worked my way up, as a Technology Manager and a VP. The tech industry was booming in SF and sadly I guess I followed the money and the security. Opening my own store was definitely the scariest leap of faith I've ever made in my life so far. It's a lot more work than I'd ever imagined and a lot less secure than any of the other jobs I've had. But to start something myself and to see it grow from the very beginning, it's been a great experience.

How did you find the brands you wanted to carry when you first opened, and has that changed?

Mira: A ton of research, referrals, asking customers about their friends or designers they love from wherever they travel. One of the primary goals of the store is to find lines that are fairly obscure. I also like designers in their first or second collection, before they are "discovered." If they're special or successful, most of these lines begin to work with major showrooms in the US pretty shortly after, so we're constantly on the hunt once that happens. It requires a lot of research, a lot of reading and blog scouting, lots of travel. Now that I have friends in the showrooms and people know more about Mira Mira, they bring lines to me they know will be a good fit. So that is definitely different from when I first began and had to really sell myself to anyone I wanted to work with.

How else have you seen your business change since you first opened?

I guess I realized right away that it was also necessary to have a handful of indie lines that are a bit more popular and commonly known. The idea of having all obscure lines was kind of a pipe dream. But each season, as some fade in and out (either because they're discovered or because the line goes under) we try to always have a new obscure line to replace them each season. Sometimes lines are so small that they don't make their minimums and the deliveries just never arrive. So I learned that you have to have some reliable lines that you know will make up the foundation of your store.

What do you find sells best? Who are your best-selling designers?

Mira: Party dresses. I don't think it really matters which designer. It's just such a rush to see someone put on a perfect dress that makes them look and feel wonderful. You can see it when they first walk out of the change room. And then I know that they'll go to their event feeling really great and that makes me happy. I think one thing that constantly surprises me is that edgy does best in our store. When I try to sell basics, it just doesn't seem to work. I realize that I need to be true to my taste which is kind of wacky and out there, I think. My customers seem to respond to that. So it's really been a lesson in trusting myself and going with my gut on what I think will work. And of course, I've definitely had a couple complete failures that I believed in.

Is there a label you've always wanted to carry that you haven't been able to yet?

Mira: There are a lot of labels that I really want to carry but I can't because of the cost. It's really important to me to work hard to find quality pieces that are not crazy expensive. I really want to be able to offer a lot of different price-points so that there is something for everyone in the shop. I never realized how hard that would be. I find myself focusing on lower priced pieces of finer collections so that I can still offer the quality and fabric but not the expense. This leaves me unable to carry a ton of pieces that I wish I could. Maybe as I grow, things will change.

How would you describe the Mira Mira customer?

Mira: She's all over the map so far. When you look around the shop on a busy day, everyone looks completely different. I'd say we have a really good mix of ladies who are 18 - 78. And I'm not kidding when I say that. I think that she just has to love fashion and not be afraid to take risks sometimes. I love it when people are willing to step outside of their comfort zone a bit and have some fun with what they're wearing.

Do you see a lot of repeat customers? I think so. I really want to build a community around the shop that is outside of just all the shopping. I love bringing friends together and connecting with our ladies. It's the most important thing about us, I think.

What do you find is the best way to get new customers in the door?

Mira: Fun events. We have these ladies night parties that all focus on a different theme. A lot of them are girly and sort of bonding. We've had a braiding party, a DIY nail art event, and most recently an incredible book signing for Andrea Linett, which was just such a honor to have at the shop. Our next event is with Faux Lash. They're going to show us how to put on false eyelashes for all our holiday parties. I'm really excited for that one.

How do you like being in the Mission? Do you have your sights on any other neighborhoods for a second store?

Mira: Love the Mission, it's my home and it has been for a very long time. I bike to work everyday and I hang out around here. It's hard to get me out of my hood. I can't really see myself anywhere else in SF but I do love a lot of the other shopping districts. I will say that we are in the process of building an online store. That's definitely the next location for Mira Mira.

Lightning Round Time! Beach or Mountains?

Mira: Beach for days.

'60s, '70s or '80s?

Mira: '70s for sure.

Jay-Z or Kanye?

Mira: Jay-Z. No contest.

30 Rock or Parks and Rec?

Mira: I've never seen Parks and Rec so I'd have to go with 30 Rock.